Canvassers across our state have been asking Arkansas voters to sign a petition that would put Act 579 on the 2020 general election ballot. This referendum attempt would essentially put the physical enactment of Act 579, which has already been passed through our Arkansas House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson, on hold yet again until Arkansas voters saw the issue on the ballot next fall. Many of these canvassers perpetuated the spread of misinformation regarding the educational and clinical training of Doctorate of Optometry programs today by essentially insinuating, that DOCTORS of optometry are no more than certified clinicians.
After days of debate, the Arkansas Secretary of State informed Safe Surgery Arkansas (the group led by local ophthalmologists behind the referendum attempt) that they did not meet the requirements to have their referendum of Act 579 placed on the 2020 ballot. This was due, in part, to the illegal collection of signatures by Safe Surgery Arkansas’ canvassers state-wide. A total of 53, 491 signatures were required, but only 23,953 were tallied, as they were the only ones deemed to be collected legally.
Arkansas optometrists do not expect that this will be the end of the debate over Act 579, but for now, we can push ahead in the process to implement State Board requirements for doctors met in order to practice under the new statues. This will allow optometric physicians like Dr. Watson to provide the widest scope of practice to their patients by performing procedures they were trained to perform (and Dr. Watson DID perform as a student doctor in Oklahoma) for the citizens of Arkansas.